There isn’t much new under the sun. But there is always something which can be repurposed, brought up to date, or simply rediscovered. The new wellness trend of forest bathing fits snugly into all three slots.
Already massively popular in Japan where it is known as ‘shinrin-yoku’, proponents claim forest bathing promotes health and wellness while exercising your mind, can stave off chronic stress, and even prevent illness. Lofty claims indeed. But what exactly is it?
Don’t take a running jump
Forest bathing is, pretty much as you would expect, a way to reconnect with nature. Although if you are thinking that involves finding a pool deep in the forest and simply jumping in. Think again. In fact, don’t jump in at all. Bathing isn’t a literal description of the process. Rather confusingly forest bathing simply involves a walk in the woods.
If you go down to the woods today….
Since the Forest Agency of Japan unveiled its new programme of encouraging people to get back to nature in 1982 it has become so popular it is estimated 25% of Japanese regularly hike into the woods. Dr. Qing Li, associate professor in the Department of Hygiene and Public Health at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, and an expert in forest bathing has been quoted as saying: “forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress. Accordingly, shinrin-yoku may be employed as a stress reduction method, and forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes.”
This will be old news to those of us who enjoy hiking and there can’t be many who don’t feel uplifted after a yomp through woodland. But, for those who seldom venture far from the urban jungle, it is easy to see how they will benefit and be reinvigorated from forest bathing.
In Japan, Dr. Qing Li even suggests shinrin-yoku may help to prevent illnesses such as cancers and help lower blood pressure whilst reducing anxiety, depression, and fatigue. While that may, or may not be the case, anything which encourages people to explore the great outdoors, whether their motivation is the love of nature or simply self-preservation, has to be applauded.
How can you improve on nature?
Well, you can’t. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article forest bathing is a hot new trend in the United States with more people than ever hiking through and exploring the amazing landscapes the US has to offer. But, as ever, shortcuts are available.
Don’t want the hassle of lacing up some walking boots and getting out into the fresh air? No problem. Exclusive health spas are now offering ‘forest bathing’ treatments to their clients who are pampered, rubbed, and anointed by therapists in luxurious and plush surroundings.
What will your forest bathing experience be?
Get massaged and wrapped in a preparation of oils for a couple of hours and say goodbye to a hundred dollar bill at a spa; or take a walk deep into the woods and enjoy the sights, sounds, and textures of nature for free. Tough choice, eh?